It was refreshing last week to hear a sitting board member in Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 refer to the school district’s “parking lot” lawsuit against the village of Brookfield as “irrational.”
The school board moved too fast to begin litigating, said board member Edward Jepson during an endorsement interview with the other candidates at the Landmark’s offices last week. It’s not as if Jepson is unfamiliar with litigation. He himself is an attorney.
But school officials were so miffed about having the 91-space parking lot shot down by the village that they rushed to sue, without understanding, apparently, how little leverage they had.
Jepson called the experience a lesson learned. That lesson, we imagine is that a lawsuit between two taxing districts representing the same people should only be a last, desperate resort.
There’s no public relations upside to sticking taxpayers with legal bills from both sides. And there is little reason to believe that the deal both sides reached in the end – one fellow candidate and Hollywood neighborhood resident William Smithing called a “win-win” – could not have been reached through negotiation with the village anyway.
Clearly the village wasn’t against providing parking for the high school. A decade ago, the village created a parking lot for the high school by converting Rockefeller Avenue west of Golf Road into a 103-space parking lot.
But with nearby residents howling about the size of RBHS’ proposed addition to the lot, village officials — right before an election, we might add — had to take their feelings into consideration.
The lesson learned is that neither the village nor the high school is going anywhere and both boards need to have an open, honest line of communication through which issues like this can be examined.
That can’t be done when the two sides are staring down each other in front of a judge.